By Ron Holt
Struggling offensively throughout, Bixby’s Lady Spartans relied on a crucial defensive stop in the final seconds to salvage a 39-37 Frontier Valley Conference victory over Owasso last Friday night in BHS’s Whitey Ford Field House.
While celebrating Senior Night with a victory, the Lady Spartans improved to 15-6 on the season and extended their winning streak to seven games. Owasso fell to 12-8.
Bixby, which won 67-32 in an earlier meeting at Owasso, used back-to-back three pointers by freshman Kate Wernli midway through the first quarter to lead 18-15. The Lady Spartans added a steal and layup by senior Gentry Baldwin and a jumper by Alyssa Nielsen to lead 22-17 after one quarter.
An 8-0 run in the second quarter, featuring four points by Baldwin and two each by Nielsen and senior Gracy Wernli, lifted the Lady Spartans to a 30-17 lead before the Lady Rams closed out the stanza with four points to narrow the deficit to 30-21 at intermission.
Shockingly, the Lady Spartans only scored two third quarter points coming on a pair of free throws by Nielsen to enter the fourth quarter tied with Owasso at 32-all.
Senior leaders stepped forward early in the final frame as Baldwin stole the ball and was fouled driving for a layup. She sank both free throws for a 34-32 lead with 7:22 left. G. Wernli drained a three-pointer for a 37-32 Lady Spartan lead at the 5:50 mark.
Owasso rallied with three free throws by junior Makenna Yokley and a bank shot by junior Addy Pruitt to allow the Lady Rams to pull even at 37-all with 1:58 remaining in the contest. G. Wernli, however, returned the lead to Bixby as she sank two free throws for a 39-37 lead with less than a minute remaining.
Bixby’s defense made the final big play in the game as K. Wernli, Nielsen and G. Wernli tied Lady Ram Yokely, turning the held ball over to the Lady Spartans with 12.5 seconds remaining. Bixby inbounded the ball and dribbled out the remaining time to capture the hard-fought win.
“We were hurrying … we rushed things and then things weren’t falling,” Lady Spartan coach Tina Thomas said afterward. “But they found a way to win when things weren’t going our way. I thought our defense was really strong at the end of the game.
“They (Owasso) didn’t have to shoot very well because they got so many rebounds, they got a lot of points on put backs,” she added.
Baldwin led Bixby in scoring with 13 points, followed by K. Wernli with nine points, G. Wernli with seven, Nielsen six and Ama Musick four.
“It was a rough night for our shots but at the end of the day we found a way to win,” Baldwin said. “That’s all that matters. We only scored nine points in the second half but that means our defense was good because we were able to hold them.
“We got off to a slow start and the second half was even slower. That just shows you have to show up for every game,” she added.
Bixby closes out the regular season with a pair of road games this week. The Lady Spartans visit Class 5A top-ranked Sapulpa (17-2) on Tuesday, Feb. 14, and travel to Booker T. Washington (16-3) on Friday, Feb. 17. The Frontier Valley Conference title is up for grabs this week.
When the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association announced Class 6A East Regional Tournament assignments late last week, Bixby was named host of the Region 4 Tournament.
In the first game Thursday, Feb. 23, Owasso plays Deer Creek-Edmond (7-13) at 6 p.m. In the second game, the Lady Spartans entertain Enid (7-13) at 7:30 p.m. The two winners play at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, for the regional championship.
BIXBY 69, SAND SPRINGS 40
(Tuesday, Feb. 7)
Bixby High’s defense took control in the first half while the offense erupted in the second half sparking the Lady Spartans to a physical 69-40 Frontier Valley Conference victory over Sand Springs last Tuesday night in Whitey Ford Field House.
Offensively, Bixby’s offense struggled in the opening half, holding a 12-7 first quarter lead over the visiting Lady Sandites. The Lady Spartans led 13-9 with less than five minutes remaining in the second quarter before the defense and offense complimented each other.
Defensively, Bixby only allowed an early field goal in the second quarter while the Lady Spartans’ offense went on an 11-0 run to carry a 24-9 lead into the halftime break.
“It was very physical. I was very pleased with the way my girls responded,” Bixby head coach Tina Thomas said. “The first half we couldn’t throw a pebble in the ocean from the outside, but they found a way and our defense held them to nine points, that was huge.”
Behind field goals by Gracy Wernli, Alyssa Nielsen and Kate Wernli, Bixby expanded its lead to 38-18 with 4:12 showing in the third quarter, a lead growing to 49-27 going into the fourth stanza.
Three three-point field goals by G. Wernli opening the fourth quarter gave the Lady Spartans a 58-30 lead with 4:30 remaining in the game.
G. Wernli led the balanced BHS attack with 21 points, followed by Nielsen with 18 points and K. Wernli 17 – 12 in the third quarter. Gentry Baldwin and Ama Musick each scored five points while Bailey Wilson had two and Brynn Daniel one. Musick ended with nine rebounds while Nielsen had eight.
“We expected a physical game, but I don’t think I’ve ever played a physical game like that,” G. Wernli said. “Our defense was insane in the first half, switching from man to zone defense was a big factor in how good our defense was tonight.”
BIXBY 72, JENKS 47
(Monday, Feb. 6)
JENKS – Opening on a 16-4 run and applying tenacious defensive pressure throughout, Bixby’s Lady Spartans rolled past the pesky Jenks Lady Trojans, 72-47, in a Frontier Valley Conference make-up game in the Frank Herald Gymnasium here last Monday.
Freshman Kate Wernli scored nine of Bixby’s 16 first quarter points and the Lady Spartans overcame deadly shooting by Jenks’ Jill Twiehaus in the second quarter to lead by 34-19 at halftime. Bixby’s man-to-man pressing defense never allowed Jenks to narrow the gap.
“Coach Thomas told us this team will come back even if you get big up on them so we couldn’t rest on our man defense,” said Bixby’s junior guard Brynn Daniel. “That man was tiring, especially the full court man. When we play teams with multiple stars you have to really face guard them so this will help later on.
“Sometimes our scoring is lopsided but tonight we had consistent scoring,” she said. “After the Booker T. loss, we’ve picked it up. Practices have been more intense. It was a reality check … we can’t take any games for granted.”
Leading 44-29 with 2:30 left in the third quarter, Bixby relied on two free throws by Alyssa Nielsen, a jumper by Daniel and a lay-in by Gentry Baldwin with one second left to lead 50-29 going into the final quarter.
Bixby featured a balanced offensive onslaught with four players scoring in double figures and another player one point shy of double figures.
“I was very pleased with our defense. We had a few little breakdowns, but I was pleased overall,” Coach Tina Thomas said. “I told them tonight we were going to work on our man-to-man lockdown defense … I was pleased with our defensive effort.
“I thought we also had a balanced attack which is what needs to be happening this time of the year. We’ve had moments where we’ve looked good in halves, but I feel like we’ve had solid eight quarters the last two games. We’re looking for consistency and resolve from everybody we put on the court, and I feel like we got that from everyone.”
K. Wernli topped Bixby’s offense with 19 points, followed by Baldwin with 14, Nielsen 13, G. Wernli 12, Ama Musick nine and Daniel with five. Twiehaus led Jenks with 16 points.
It was a historic night for Nielsen, who surpassed 1,000 points in her Bixby career. “I just knew I had to get at least 12 points to get 1,000,” a smiling Nielsen said. “It’s a big milestone and I was looking forward to it. I had a couple of slow games before tonight … it was exciting.
“I thought we shared the ball well tonight, we played a good game. We talked before the game that one thing we needed to do was play solid man-to-man defense. I think we really stepped up. I’m not going to lie, I haven’t been this tired after a game in a long time. It was fun, though,” she added.
Nielsen joins senior teammate Gracy Wernli with 1,000 career points. “We have two girls with 1,000 career points … I’m so proud for them,” coach Thomas noted. “I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a team with two 1,000-point scorers.”
BIXBY 39, OWASSO 37
(Friday, Feb. 10)
Bixby Scoring – Gentry Baldwin 13, Kate Wernli 9, Gracy Wernli 7, Alyssa Nielsen 6, Ama Musick 4.
BIXBY 69, SAND SPRINGS 40
(Tuesday, Feb. 7)
Bixby Scoring – Gracy Wernli 21, Alyssa Nielsen, Kate Wernli 17, Gentry Baldwin 5, Ama Musick 5, Bailey Wilson 2, Brynn Daniel 1.
BIXBY 72, JENKS 47
(Monday, Feb. 6)Bixby’s Scoring – Kate Wernli 19, Gentry Baldwin 14, Alyssa Nielsen 13, Gracy Wernli 12, Ama Musick 9, Brynn Daniel 5.